Some things in life cost money – serious money and TM motorcycles are in that category. Beautifully made, with lightweight frames, classy suspension and a choice of four stroke or two stroke engines, in sizes ranging from 125cc to 530cc.
Alastair Walker went to Wiltshire to find out if the 2007 Ohlins equipped TM 450F is an Italian beauty that’s worth a hefty bank overdraft, or just a designer enduro machine that’s all bling but no ability.
We all love a bargain don’t we? Britain’s bikers have become expert bargain hunters; whether it’s bidding for old trail bikes on e-bay, or snapping up cheap and nasty bike kit `reduced to clear’ at the NEC – someone, somewhere will have it, so long as the price is right.
But you know what? Sometimes it pays to slam a fat wad of cash down to buy the very best you can afford and feel like a million dollars. Fact is, you could be buying something unique, like this 2007 TM 450F. You see this is a bespoke enduro bike, featuring Ohlins monoshock, a swinging arm that looks hewn from sterling silver and rubber-damped handlebar mounts.
There’s just one hitch – get ready for this – it costs £6095. Ouch.
BIT CHEEKY, WHY SO EXPENSIVE?
You don’t have to look too long at the TM 450 to see where the money’s gone. The chassis is a superb piece of sculpture with a beautifully spare, perfectly welded frame, huge Paioli USD forks and a multi adjustable Ohlins unit at the back. Nissin/Brembo hybrid braking systems and Excel spoked wheels complete a package that weighs in at just 125Kgs, minus any fuel in the tank.
You feel that lightness, that balanced agility as soon as you set off up the road, or across a wet field in Wiltshire. The bike is so chuckable for a 450 – it feels almost as light to throw around as the TM 250 MX in fact. The 450F recovers really well after the back end steps out on really wet patches of ground, or hits an unexpected bump. It soon made me feel much more confident about messing around on the bike, even though I have pretty limited off-road ability.
Although TM buy in superb suspension components, they actually build their own engines ( both two and four stroke ) and although they don’t disclose the exact power output, I would guess that the 450F has more than enough punch for all but expert level off-road riders. Compared to a DRZ400 Suzuki the TM 450 feels much more torquey, more powerful lowdown, but it hasn’t the commuter-friendly smoothness of say a Yamaha XT660X. If I was pushed, I’d guesstimate the TM450F kicks out 50bhp.
As a bit of an off-road novice, I bottled it when it came to holding it flat out on the wet muddy stuff, but the 450F is probably good for about 70mph, on enduro gearing. It is great for hooning over fields, or threading the bike through two foot deep pools of sludge on part-throttle in all five gears, but you’d definitely want a spare set of sprockets for regular road riding, which would give maybe another 10-15mph top speed.
For 2007 the TM 450 has a new ignition map to improve throttle response in the low and midrange, plus a new camshaft to make the motor that little bit smoother. The other update for 2007 to the 450F is the Ohlins unit replacing a Sachs rear shock.
Mike from TM UK reckons that regular enduro racers might choose a 250/300cc two stroke from their range, so that’s why the 2007 TM 450F has been tweaked this year to be a more user-friendly, easier machine to ride.
On the road the bike feels like a perfect winter commuter, with steady braking power, a seat that isn’t quite as high as say a KTM 640 and an electric starter. The only downside to commuting would be that the headlight looks a bit small to be honest, so I wouldn’t want to ride regularly along unlit roads.
In theory, you could commute on the 450F, then turn it into a Supermoto or Enduro weekend racebike with knobblies and smaller sprockets. But my own feeling is that the TM is still a very serious off-roader at heart. It feels so much fun on the muddy stuff that I would hate to waste a minute of my life pootling through traffic on the thing.
It inspires you to ride faster, to compete – the TM 450F was born to race.
COSTA BLANCO OR COSTA FORTUNA?
I trekked around the Dirt Bike Show 2006 and thought that the build quality of the TM machines was way ahead of anything else there, except maybe that insane BMW HP2 enduro Boxer twin, but that costs twice as much as a TM 450.
Yet six grand for a 450 enduro is serious cash, and I would find it hard to justify spending that, unless I was a dedicated Hare `n’ Hounds type competitor – you have to love the sport of enduro to buy the 450F, it really is such a great machine to ride on the rough stuff.
To be honest, I think if you want a dual purpose bike which can commute and do the occasional bit of green-laning ( is green-laning still legal ?) then a secondhand KLR650, a shedload of WD40 and a decent toolkit will probably be all you need. A new DRZ400 for four grand makes another good commuter/green laner on the cheap too – although the DRZ400 feels like it’s made from old washing machine parts compared to the TM 450F.
Like a Rolex, or a Mont Blanc fountain pen, the TM 450 feels every inch a hand-crafted tool, designed to do one thing exceptionally well. In this case it’s riding across the countryside with a big grin on your face and the feeling that you’ve bought one of the best dirt bikes money can buy. It has a factory racer feel to it, a sharper edge than the mainstream. In the end, that level of excellence, of sheer engineering quality and assembly, costs money.
Maybe the quality option is something that every biker should experience once in a lifetime?
Get Carole Nash motorbike insurance for the TM 450F 2007.
Engine Liquid cooled, 449cc single cylinder, four valves,
Bore and Stroke
95mm x 63.4mm
Fuelling 40mm Mikuni carb
Gears 5 speed
Chassis; Steel tubular perimeter frame,
Forks; Paioli 50mm USD forks.
Rear suspension; Ohlins monoshock, multi-adjustable.
Brakes; Nissin 270mm front, Brembo 2 piston caliper, Nissin 245mm rear, Nissin single piston caliper.
Wheels/Tyres; 90/90 X 21 in front, 140/80 X 18 in rear.
Weight; 125kgs ( wet, except for fuel )
Seat Height N/A
Fuel Capacity 9 Litres
Estimated Top Speed 75mph
Price (Dec. 2006) £6095